Showing posts with label Regernative Agriculture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Regernative Agriculture. Show all posts

Friday, July 2, 2021

Towards a Livable Future - Climate Friendly Agriculture

by Kate Storey - Citizen’s Climate lobby - Dauphin, Manitoba

Farmers and ranchers are among those most affected by the climate, and yet agriculture is a contributor of climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.  As we work our fields and care for our livestock, it’s hard to imagine how our day to day farm decisions can have an impact on the atmosphere and on the heat, drought, floods, and weather extremes that affect our yields.  Farming activities can store carbon and nutrients in the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Farming activities can also release chemicals into the air that accumulate, destabilizing the climate we depend on. 

Fortunately, there are climate friendly farming practices that are both good for the environment and good for farm net incomes. Although the choices that we make on our individual farms may seem insignificant, the widespread adoption of climate friendly farm practices can lead to an agriculture system in which emissions are reduced and carbon is captured in the soil in sufficient quantities to help stabilize the climate. We can all do our part.

The largest source of farm greenhouse gases is nitrogen fertilizer. It has been shown that almost half of agricultural emissions come from the production, transportation and application of synthetic fertilizers and from sprays. Farm inputs are expensive and can easily be wasted. The obvious solution is to use them wisely and sparingly. The 4R program outlines how to achieve an immediate 15% reduction in synthetic fertilizer emissions simply by using fertilizer from the right source and applying it at the right rate, time and place. The same 4R idea can be applied to pesticide applications, saving the farm money, reducing the chemical load on the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A growing number of farms are adopting techniques to naturally regenerate soil nutrients. Techniques such as crop rotations, cover cropping, intercropping and the working of green crops into the soil are effective ways to increase soil nutrients and reduce the need for purchased chemical inputs.

Farmers are increasingly recognizing the value of what used to be considered “waste” lands. It is now recognized that those areas of trees, grass or wetland are significant contributors to crop success, vigor and yield. Trees and grasslands are nature’s best carbon capture technology, stabilizing the water cycles while providing a refuge for the species that pollinate and protect our crops. Integrating trees and shelterbelts takes little space but can increase yields for a significant part of the surrounding field. There are new climate friendly cattle grazing techniques which allow a pasture time to rest and re-grow, capturing more carbon while increasing the productivity of the land and the farmer’s profits. The old ways of removing every tree, draining every slough, blackening the soil, grazing every blade of grass and then buying synthetic nutrients, have been shown to be economically and environmentally unsustainable. There is a new way of farming that uses natural and regenerative soil building techniques to grow good-yielding crops without the need for high input costs.

Off the farm, there is growing interest in rebuilding the local food economy and reducing the transportation that is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The pandemic has inspired public dissatisfaction with the frailty of global food monopolies and the knowledge that the transportation of livestock, grain, feed and finished food products over great distances does not result in tasty, fresh food.  Canadians want to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. They don’t want to depend on imported food, imported workers or food monopolies that can be suddenly shut down. 

Think how much more livable our world will be if we rebuild the local food systems that create jobs in our rural towns and put fresher food on Canadian’s plates. On our farms, we can provide space for the beneficial species that protect and pollinate our crops by leaving a few hectares of natural trees and wetlands. We can reduce the chemical load in the environment by buying less chemical fertilizer and by using soil regenerating, carbon capturing farm methods. We can all do our part to create a resilient, sustainable food system and a livable climate for future generations.



Friday, January 31, 2020

Farming as nature intended. A “dynamic duo” from south of the border, brings a message of hope and radical change to producers on the Canadian prairies.

by Larry Powell

A conventional farm in Manitoba. A PinP photo.

"You're tilling too much!"

That was Ray Archuleta's blunt message to about 50 people at a meeting this week in the small, farming community of Shoal Lake, Manitoba. The brilliant, affable Archuleta operates a small ranch in Missouri. His partner. Gabe Brown, whose "down home" personality has apparently earned him the monicker, "Farmer Brown," runs a big, mixed operation in North Dakota.

Both men are on the same mission - convince as many farmers as they can to move away from conventional production. That's how countless producers in Canada, the U.S. and developed countries around the world, have, for decades, practised this predominant style of agriculture. They rely on heavy and expensive "inputs" of fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and "mono-crops," all designed to produce the highest yields possible. 
Ray Archuleta conducts a "slake test."
Archuleta, a soil and water scientist, worked for the U.S. government for many years. He says too much tillage makes the land more vulnerable, not only to the kind of erosion that blows farmers' soils away in massive dust storms, but to devastating floods and droughts, as well. He adds, neglect of soil biology has gone on for so long, it has resulted in farm soils becoming "the most destroyed eco-system there is!" 

In a demonstration for his audience (similar to the one shown, l.), Archuleta had volunteers drop different samples of the same type of soil into clear, plastic tubes. Some of those samples were from fields that had been tilled and treated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Others had not been tilled, but planted with cover crops that kept them constantly green and fed with valuable nutrients. When water was added, the first soil group rapidly disintegrated. The second kept their shapes for a prolonged period and absorbed the water into their pores, instead. This was indicative of healthy soil that would hold moisture and nutrients for the plants growing in it.

Archuleta says, after working for the government for a long time, promoting the kind of system he now campaigns against, he saw the light and quit to start ranching and spreading the word of a new and better way called Regenerative Agriculture. He sees too many conventional farmers going broke and doesn't like it. He calls them "The poorest millionaires I know," due to the tremendous debt they carry for expensive infrastructure. In his words, "The money goes to the tool-makers," meaning the machinery and farm input manufacturers.

He believes producers like himself, who emulate nature (a process called "bio-mimicry"), are the ones who are now making the money.
His partner, Gabe Brown (above), says cover crops hold the secret to healthy soil and crops. On his five thousand acre farm near Bismark, Brown keeps his fields diversified with a constant cover of green during the growing season; before, after and during development of the main crop. 
An example is intercropping - planting several grain crops in the same field, then harvesting and separating or using the mix for feed.Brown says, too many inputs (like pesticides and artificial fertilizers), even on "zero-till" fields, can, over time, turn soil into virtual "bricks." These can result in "ponding," rather than absorption in heavy rains. He wonders whether the disastrous flooding which ravaged vast parts of the U.S. midwest this summer, might have been as bad had the soils in states like Iowa, not been turned into "crap" by misguided farming practises over many years.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

There's A Way to Save Our Future. So Why Aren't More People Talking About It?


PinP blogger, Larry Powell, 
plants a cover crop on his organic 
acreage in Manitoba. (Circa 2000) PinP photo.
Transitioning to organic regenerative agriculture practices 'offers the best, and perhaps our only, hope for averting a global warming disaster.' More here.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

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